NY's Stover "cautiously optimistic" about 2011

Red Bulls looking to break 10k season tickets for upcoming season

Red Bull Arena

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Full steam ahead, so says New York Red Bulls managing director Erik Stover, whose club is looking to build on a successful 2010 with what he says is cautious optimism for 2011.

Stover oversaw the development and building of Red Bull Arena, perhaps the crown jewel of MLS stadiums, and the opening of the soccer-specific stadium in 2010 ushered in a banner year for the franchise.

The Red Bulls showed marked upticks in nearly every facet of their front office metrics, including a 47 percent increase in the club’s league attendance over the year prior. There was also a 75 percent increase in full season equivalent ticket purchases, and, interestingly enough, a 50 percent increase in the amount of purchases made inside the arena when stacked against the club’s final year at Giants Stadium.

And 2011 is shaping up to be even more successful. The club is already close to its full season equivalent ticket purchases from a year before, a number which neared 8,200. Stover cites this as a huge success, given the fact that “we normally sell 15-20 percent of our tickets in the month leading up to the season start.”

“We think we’re going to fly past last year’s number and hit our goal of 10,000,” Stover told MLSSoccer.com.

And each of the two weeks after the signings of Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez registered one billion media impressions.

“That’s billion with a ‘B’. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen in MLS,” Stover said.

Stover also revealed to MLSsoccer.com that the Red Bulls have tripled the number of sponsors over the past year, an exciting development for the club. Stover’s predecessors had not made local sponsorship of the Red Bull owned team a priority, but the managing director has set about changing all that. The club will continue to pursue local sponsorship opportunities, he said, because it is good for the club.

And it isn’t just the bottom line that he’s looking at: Stover sees sponsors as integral for the growth of the team in a crowded New York sportscape.

“[Our outlook on sponsors] has changed pretty dramatically since five years ago. We’ve learned that having sponsors in your market is very important,” Stover said. “We’re trying to build this club, grow this sport and having sponsors partnered with you in the market is important in doing that, in promoting the team.”

One area not yet set in stone heading into 2011 is a local television deal. Since the club’s inception in 1996, New York has been on the MSG Network, a prominent sports-themed outlet that is also the home of the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers and the WNBA’s New York Liberty.

Stover was mum as to the direction that the club is taking with regards to a television outlet for the Red Bulls in 2011.

“We’re in advanced stages of negotiations,” Stover said. “That’s really all I can say.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer